The Alliance for Livable Newport (ALN) hosted a Community Forum and Information session on the upcoming improvements to the Newport Transportation and Visitors Center (Gateway Center) on Monday evening in the lobby of the Transportation and Visitors Center on America’s Cup Avenue.

Representatives of the team leading the effort discussed  the planned work, provide renderings of the upcoming project, and answered questions from the audience.  The construction and restoration work will include improvements to parts of the Transportation and Visitors Center damaged by Hurricane Sandy, as well as the installation of Green Infrastructure to assist in storm water runoff management.

Lillian Picchione, Director of Capital Development of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), led the presentation.  RIPTA is the state agency working with the City of Newport on this project.   Picchione was joined by colleagues from RIPTA who have worked with Newport City officials on the plan; representatives of the Newport City Council; and Evan Smith, President and CEO of Discover Newport and the Newport Transportation and Visitors Center.  Representatives from W.E. Marchetti Consulting, LLC (consultants on the project) and Newport’s Northeast Collaborative Architects (architects who worked on the project), were also available to answer questions from the audience.

RIPTA and the City of Newport release the latest design drafts for the project that will repair and improve the storm resiliency of the Newport Gateway Visitors Information and Transportation Center – one of RIPTA’s major transit hubs and a regional visitors’ center.

The facility, which is an epicenter for residents and tourists alike, sustained substantial exterior damage during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  Since then, RIPTA has been awarded federal funding to not only repair the Gateway Center but also make it more resilient to future storms  While the federal funds will cover 90-percent of the roughly $6 million project, it would not be possible without the support of the City of Newport which is providing the 10-percent matching local funds.

In the months since funding was secured, RIPTA has been working with the city, community residents and its consultants to incorporate new soil and structural testing into the plans as well as feedback from the City Council’s Architectural Review Committee.

The transit authority is pleased to have Northeast Collaborative Architects, with offices in Newport, RI, leading a team that has the expertise to address federal, state and local interests in design specifics such as drainage, green infrastructure, sustainability, architectural detail and signage for passengers and visitors.

The design as drafted is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and includes raised roofline cupolas, pedestrian safety features, improved signage and a taxi waiting, and environmentally sustainable elements such as a “rain garden” to help collect storm water onsite and improve drainage.

Design elements may still be modified based on final bid prices.

The Gateway is a popular summer and fall attraction, so one of RIPTA’s goals was to not have construction during the 2016 tourist season.  The successful bidder for the construction contractor will be expected to complete the project by June 2017.  This schedule causes the least disruption and avoids the cost of construction phasing, but is subject to winter conditions.

RIPTA used a Brooks Act Procurement process to contract for an architectural and engineering work.  Under this process, a selection team with representatives from the City of Newport, RIDOT, and RIPTA reviewed the bidders’ qualifications.  Six bidders vied for the work.  The selection team chose DHK, a firm out of Boston, MA, with direct experience in retrofitting historic transit stations. DHK (www.dhkinc.com)   will be working with a team of subcontractors with significant local track record. Work specified to include review of the site’s drainage, a structural review of the steel holding the existing canopy, architectural design of a new roof, ADA compliance review and development, and landscape design.

Opened in 1988, the Gateway was already suffering from wear and tear when it was hit by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.  During the hurricane, the canopy “sails” were ripped by high winds and flood waters forced the temporary closure of the facility.  When the water receded, it became apparent that damage was also done to the sidewalks and paved parking areas.

Although the facility continues to be used, the damage suffered during the storm left the Gateway facility in poor condition.  Without the protection of overhead covering, the sidewalks continue to deteriorate and are pitted, cracked and crumbling.  The severe winter of 2015 exacerbated this problem.  Discover Newport, the local tenant, helped guide the design process so that the repair and restoration would move away from the original sail/canopy design which had not been universally popular with the community.

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Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).